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Ethnic differences may significantly influence the outcome of psychopharmacological treatment, in terms of prescription, adherence, clinical response, emergence of side effects, as well as pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. The purpose of this review was to explore the available literature in order to provide general suggestions to help clinicians in choosing the best therapeutic option for patients, taking into account ethnicity. Although findings are sometimes controversial, the overall published studies suggest that ethnicities other than Caucasians tend to show a lower response to antidepressants and a reduced compliance. Africans tend to be more prescribed with antipsychotics, probably due to cultural stereotypes, except with clozapine, probably for their chronic benign neutropenia. Asians usually require less antipsychotic dosages than Caucasians. The differential response and side effect profile of antidepressants and antipsychotics have been related to individual intrinsic factors, to genetic make-up, but also to cultural and contextual variables. Interestingly, albeit limited data suggest ethnic-related genetic heterogeneity at the level of the serotonin transporters, the cytochromes and some neuroreceptors. Taken together, no conclusive findings are available about the role and impact of ethnicity in psychopharmacology. One of the main problems is that the majority of the studies in psychopharmacology have been conducted on Caucasians, so that there is an urgent need to have data in other populations. Furthermore, in the era of precision medicine, the role of ethnicity may be also supported by genetic analysis.
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